Lotus Flower Meaning

What does the Lotus Flower Mean in Greek mythology?

Herodotus, the Greek historian from Ionia stated that the tribe of lotus eaters is not just a myth, but a reality.

This 5th century historian, with his large collection of historical writings is often touted as The Father of History. He asserted that they were a real bunch of people, who truly existed in his time, on an island close to the coast of Libya.

In his work, He documented that the group of people who resided there survived exclusively on sweet intoxicating fruits coming from a specific tree that yielded blooms that looked like lotus flowers.

Lotus Flower Greek mythology

The Lotus eaters are also referred to as the lotophagi, and their presence originated from Greek Mythology. In the epic called The Odyssey by Homer, this bunch of people make up a part of the ninth book.

Land of the Lotus Eaters painintg by Robert S. Duncanson
Robert S. Duncanson Painting of the Land of the Lotus Eaters, currently at the Swedish Royal Collection. Public Domain / {{PD-US}}

This race or tribe of people supposedly lived on an island that had an abundance of lotus plants. The island was located somewhere near an area of Northern Africa.

These lotus-obsessed creatures were briefly encountered by Odysseus (Latin: Ulysses) and his men; when they were returning home from fighting in the Trojan War.

The lotus eaters received their name because of their weird practice of eating a mysterious plant that supposedly looked like lotus flowers.

These blooms had soporific elements, which kept the eaters in a stupor, which then induced them to be in a perpetual condition of being languid and forgetful. Although these creatures were not hostile and friendly, they almost had a detrimental impact on Odysseus and his team.

The Tale Behind Odysseus and these Lotus Eaters

The incident happened after Odysseus and his men left the island of the sorceress Circe, where they had suffered severe losses after a menacing encounter with a terrible monster called Scylla.

The God Zeus created a huge storm as they sailed away, which forced Odysseus’ fleet to find refuge in the Cape Malea, which was the land of the lotus eaters.

After resting for a bit when the ship docked on the new land, Odysseus supposedly sent a few men to look for natives. He wanted to know if any civilization inhabited the area and if they may be helpful.

The men soon discovered the lotus eaters, who they found to be quite serene and friendly. Odysseus' men were even offered some sweet lotus flowers and fruits to eat. However, upon eating the goodies, the men soon forgot about the mission they were tasked to accomplish. They remembered nothing about the past, and thought nothing about their future.

Of course, Odysseus waited in vain and became impatient when his men did not return. He ended up sending more men, who also did not come back.

As a last resort, he himself went to search for his troops, and discovered that they were in a daze surrounded by lotus eaters. His men were in a happy state that was purely chill, relaxed and lazy, with no desire to ever move.

Odysseus was able to make a quick assessment of the situation, and resorted to carrying each of his men, who were kicking and screaming because they did not want to leave, back into the ship. He tied all of them down and sailed away to escape the island of lotus eaters, never to return.

The Exotic Lotus Plants Meaning to the Greeks

The Greeks actually dubbed a large variety of non-narcotic plants as 'lotos'. This could have been the name for the mysterious lotus flower like plant eaten by the lotus eaters in Greek mythology was derived from.

Many historians noted that in the case of the Odysseus story, the name might refer to the opium poppy. The ripe seedpods of the opium poppy are resemblant of the unopened pods the true lotus flower. Other alternatives considered were nestle trees and even the blue water lilies found in the river Nile.

To learn more about the effect of these lotus flowers, it is important to consider the physical appearance and the behavioural qualities of the lotus eaters mentioned in the Odyssey. These observations may provide further information about this legendary plant and what possible variety it could be.

Physical Appearance of the lotus eaters

The majority of the lotus eaters looked like regular, ordinary human beings. However, upon closer observation, anyone would be able to see that they had a very distant and somewhat dreamy looking expression on their faces. Their movements were not normal, being slow and sluggish.

In addition, these creatures looked frail and inebriated. It is said that a natural born lotus eater would possess pale skin, light grey eyes, and white hair; any human who regularly ate lotus flowers would possess the same appearance over time. Often lotus-eaters preferred to be au naturel, but during those rare moments that they wore clothes, the choice was loose fit tunics.

Behavioural Characteristics

A regular diet of intoxicating lotus flowers made these beings to live in a in a daze like existence of complete and utter euphoria. They would be in a land of daydreams and fantasies.

If they did discuss things, it would often centre on far-fetched philosophical ideologies that had no practical nor functional bearing on the real world. Because of this nature, they were sluggish and lazy. They were apathetic about outsiders and worldly concerns.

If they were unable to get access to their daily dose of lotus flowers, they would come out of their stupor briefly, but would still remained restless and easy to distract.

Thanks to these lotus flowers, the creatures that ate them smelled beautiful. Because of this, they hardly took any baths. But even with poor hygiene habits, they still smelled good because of fragrant lotus flowers.

Since the tribe was nomadic in nature, they moved from one area to the next, exhausting lotus flower supplies wherever place they ended up in. When they had consumed all the lotus flowers, they begin traveling again to feed their insane addiction.

Were Lotus thought to Have Supernatural Powers Like A Fountain of Youth

A regular diet of these lotus flowers was said to slow down the aging process of the consumers. This is akin to finding the fountain of youth. A steady diet of these flowers gave them an aura of dreaminess. It is said that anyone who comes across them will easily become confused and disoriented. When people come across them, their minds become foggy quickly. This is because these perpetual lotus flower consumers were thought to be telepathic and could even control others.

These tribal people were said to have powers to control and share dreams, which contains images of the past, present, and future. Anyone who comes in contact with lotus eaters, and happens to touch or kiss them, will suffer the worse effects. This is the legacy of the Lotus flower in Greek Mythology.

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